Would NATO action in Syria be offense or defense?

NATO is planning to deploy Patriot missiles to Turkey while also warning Syria that any use of chemical weapons would prompt an immediate response. The juxtaposition of these two policy elements has led to some confusion about whether the alliance is in an offensive or defensive posture toward Syria. Witness this Voice of America account of recent statements by NATO's secretary-general, Anders Fogh Rasmussen:

In almost the same breath, Rasmussen appears to be saying that NATO has no plans for offensive action against Syria and that the use of chemical weapons would produce immediate action. The only ways I can see of reconciling these statements are 1) that the alliance reaction to chemical weapons use would not be military in nature; 2) NATO does not consider a military response to the use of chemical weapons in Syria as "offensive"; or 3) NATO is bluffing.

The Multilateralist

World court hears Chile-Peru dispute

The Hague-based International Court of Justice today begins hearings on the long-running territorial dispute between Chile and Peru. Peru filed the case in January 2008:

Peru claims that “the maritime zones between Chile and Peru have never been delimited by agreement or otherwise” and that accordingly, “the delimitation is to be determined by the Court in accordance with customary international law”. Peru explains that “since the 1980s, [it] has consistently endeavoured to negotiate the various issues in dispute, but . . . has constantly met a refusal from Chile to enter into negotiations”....

Peru now “requests the Court to determine the course of the boundary between the maritime zones of the two States in accordance with international law . . . and to adjudge and declare that Peru possesses exclusive sovereign rights in the maritime area situated within the limit of 200 nautical miles from its coast but outside Chile’s exclusive economic zone or continental shelf”.

As the hearings begin, Chile's president is warning against an upsurge in nationalism:

As tensions ratchet up ahead of the court proceedings, Chile's President Sebastian Pinera spoke out against "exacerbated nationalism, which poisons the soul of the people," in a column published Sunday in Chilean newspaper El Mercurio.

"This dispute granted Chile and Peru an opportunity to renew our relationship and embrace together with conviction and courage the future agenda, which should be of friendship, cooperation, progress and peace," he said.

Both countries have pledged to respect the court's eventual ruling.